April 26, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

Having won the Pac-12 season title, the Stanford women’s basketball team flew to Seattle for the conference tournament.

Although Cal and Stanford shared the season title with 17-1 records, Stanford got the top seed because, thanks to the three-game tournament in Hawaii in November, it had played and won one more game than Cal.

The tournament began easily enough as Stanford coasted to a 79-60 win over Washington State on March 8.

The game was notable for 10 3-pointers by the Cardinal, led by junior guard Sara James with five. Sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson added three, while sophomore guard Amber Orrange contributed two.

The day had started with a sendoff by the band, Dollies, cheerleaders, family members and a handful of fans at the team’s Westin Hotel. The family contingent included head coach Tara VanDerveer’s mother, who had flown there from her home in Colorado. Some other fans were at the Spectator, a downtown Seattle sports bar.

Although WSU head coach June Daugherty had had an emergency appendectomy the previous day, she was at the game. Assistant coach Mike Daugherty, her husband, was the coach of record that night, but she often left her seat behind the bench to join the huddle during timeouts.

One highlight of the game came within the first minute of the second half when redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef stole the ball, gave it to Sara, who passed it to junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who passed it behind her back to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who scored.

Chiney finished the game with 23 points, followed by Sara with 17 and Joslyn with 10. It was later reported that Joslyn had been fighting the flu since earlier that week. Chiney also had 21 rebounds, thus recording the first 20-20 game in the tournament’s 12-year history.

On to the semi-finals

In the first semi-final game March 9, UCLA upset Cal 70-58, thus ending talk of a Cal-Stanford meeting in the championship game.

In the second game, Stanford advanced to the championship game by defeating Colorado 61-47. Sara had her team’s only 3-pointer. Chiney finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds, while Amber had 13 points and Mikaela had 11.

Although the score seemed somewhat lopsided, it was an extremely physical contest, especially for Chiney, who endured more than her share of being pushed grabbed and shoved.

Amber comes through for championship

Apparently all of that physicality the night before, combined with UCLA’s rugged defense, took its toll on Chiney, who scored a career-low 3 points in the championship game March 10. It was the first day of daylight-saving time, so everyone presumably had lost an hour of sleep.

Chiney made the team’s first basket, followed shortly thereafter by a free throw, and that was that. After sitting out with two fouls for about 12 minutes in the first half, she returned for the second half. She had no more fouls, but she didn’t score. Still, she contributed 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the game.

Amber picked up the scoring slack and finished with a team-high and career-high 20 points. She also made the game-winning basket, slicing through the UCLA defense with 8.3 seconds to go.

UCLA got the ball and shot but missed as the buzzer sounded. It was assumed the game had ended, but the joyous Stanford bench players had to return to the sidelines while the referees checked to see if time had actually expired. It hadn’t.

Tess helps seal the win

The officials added .2 second to the clock, so UCLA had a chance to inbound the ball, but could score only if the player receiving the ball tipped it in. A basket wouldn’t count if she caught and shot.

While the referees looked at the game monitor, Tara inserted freshman forward/center Tess Picknell into the game. Her job was to stand in front of the inbounding UCLA player. She didn’t just stand there, though. The 6’5” Tess waved her arms and jumped up and down, presenting a formidable obstacle and sight-blocker for the inbounder

Tess succeeded, and the Stanford players hugged and screamed in celebration.

Thus the Cardinal won its seventh consecutive conference championship trophy and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Chiney received a trophy as the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Amber got one as a member of the all-tournament team.

Stanford hosts first two rounds of NCAA tournament

When NCAA tournament brackets were announced March 18, Stanford got the No. 1 seed in the Spokane regional. Because Stanford had already been scheduled to host first- and second-round games, the Cardinal got to play at home.

Action began March 24 when Stanford faced No.16 seed Tulsa. The Cardinal started slowly and allowed the first half to end 24-24. After that, the Cardinal took over and finished with a 72-56 victory.

Sara helped her team get going in the second half by scoring a quick 3-pointer, the first of two for her. Later, Bonnie and Amber each scored from beyond the arc.

Tulsa’s pesky defenders stole the ball several times and often kept Stanford from shooting until late in the shot clock, especially in the first half. Tulsa couldn’t contain Chiney, though. She finished with 29 points and eight rebounds.

Amber was the only other player in double figures, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield came close with 9 points plus three rebounds in 37 minutes.

In part she was filling in for Mikaela, who had started but played only 10 minutes, contributing eight rebounds. Tara later said that she hadn’t practiced for two weeks because of an undisclosed injury.

Joslyn’s time to shine

Playing in her last-ever game at Maples on March 26, Joslyn led her team to a 73-40 victory over Michigan in the NCAA’s Round 2.

She did so on 7-for-10 shooting, including a career-high 5-of-5 on 3-pointers, resulting in a team-high 21 points. She also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Chiney had 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Amber pitched in with 11 points and two rebounds. The other two starters, Mikaela and Sara, each had 9 points. Mikaela also had six rebounds. Coming off the bench, Bonnie had 9 points and one rebound.

Together, the team made a season-high 12 3’s, including Joslyn’s five, three each from Bonnie and Sara, and one from Amber.

Every Cardinal played tough defense, but Sara gets kudos for limiting Michigan’s leading scorer, Kate Thompson, to just 7 points, 5 of them from free throws. When Sara got some breathers on the bench, Taylor took over with equally good results.

The score was 41-16 at the half. In the second half, the more than 4,700 fans were in a celebratory mood as the team made one impressive play after another. When the video board showed a close-up of much-missed junior guard Toni Kokenis, the crowd roared while she blushed.

There was a standing ovation and prolonged cheering as the starters left the game to be replaced by the bench with just over 2 minutes to go.

As the team headed for the locker room after the game, Joslyn blew kisses to the crowd. The players then returned for a victory lap around the court, waving to their cheering fans.

Season ends in Spokane

It appeared that the team would pick up where it left off when it faced Georgia in a Sweet 16 game on March 30 at the Spokane regional, but Georgia prevailed 61-59.

The game started well with the Cardinal jumping out to a 9-0 lead at the 15:26 mark. The Bulldogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until nearly 6 minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute later, however, Stanford lost one of its key backups when Taylor was hit in the left hand by a kicked ball that jammed three fingers. A preliminary X-ray showed no broken bones, but she sat out the rest of the game. (It was revealed at the spring banquet that one finger was broken.)

Stanford was ahead 34-27 at the half and maintained a lead until the 6:31 mark in the second half. That’s went Georgia pulled ahead 46-44. The score seesawed thereafter.

With slightly more than a minute to go, Stanford was behind 56-55. A free throw by Mikaela and a 3-pointer by Joslyn gave Stanford 59 points, but Georgia managed 5 points to gain the win.

Chiney had done all that she could, recording 26 points and 12 rebounds. Amber had 17 points and eight rebounds. The rest of the team contributed 16 points, with only 2 of them coming from the bench.

Still, it was only fitting that the last score would come from Joslyn, who was playing her last game as a Cardinal before graduating. Everyone else has at least a year of eligibility left.

Thus Stanford ended its season with a 33-3 record.  And once again, a showdown game between Stanford and Cal had been averted. Cal beat Louisiana State in the March 30 nightcap and defeated Georgia in overtime on April 1.

Besides Georgia, the only other teams to defeat the Cardinal were UConn and Cal, both of which went to the Final Four in New Orleans where UConn won the national championship.

Banquet pays final tribute to team

Fans had a chance to say farewell and thank you to the team at the annual spring banquet April 11.

For the first time, the banquet was held in McCaw Hall of the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center rather than the Faculty Club. The new venue was an improvement because it’s so much larger.

The dinner was served buffet style rather than sit-down, giving the 230 guests a greater choice of items and serving sizes.

The event gave the players a chance to dress up rather than appear in uniform. They also had a chance to mingle and chat with the fans.

After some introductory remarks by administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh, who had taken care of the arrangements, Tara came to the podium.

She ticked off some of the team’s accomplishments during the year, starting with the upset of Baylor in November and continuing with the team’s Pac-12 season and tournament championships as well as its 20th trip to the Sweet 16. It set a defensive record, allowing only 51.9 points per game. (Marian Cortesi recaps all of the team’s records in Stories of the Season.)

Tara thanked the dozens of behind-the-scenes people who contribute to the success of the women’s basketball program.

Praise for each player

Tara also introduced and praised each player, starting with the freshmen and ending with the academic seniors, Mikaela and Joslyn. This process was punctuated with something new -- interviews with four players: Amber, Sara, Chiney and Joslyn.

When she introduced Chiney, Tara said that she had led the team in scoring at 22.4 points per game and in rebounding at 12.9 per game without fouling out. Her many honors included being named a WBCA All-American for the second year. She, along with sophomore forward Erica Payne, Toni, Bonnie and Mikaela, received honorable mention on the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Mikaela, who missed much of her junior year with an injury, will return next year while working on a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering.

Joslyn has already completed a double major in communications and sociology. During her four years on the Farm, the team compiled an 81-1 record in conference play, a 137-10 record, or 92.3 percent, overall, and went to three Final Fours. She was named to the all Pac-12 team, joined Stanford’s 1,000 point club and had 66 blocks.

Sitting in front of a framed red jersey with her number, 44, on it, Joslyn said she plans to continue playing basketball, probably overseas, and hopes to return to the Bay Area eventually.

A video showing highlights of the 2012-13 season climaxed the evening. Click here to view it.

With so many players returning next season and the arrival of five promising freshmen, Tara challenged the returnees to step up and lead the way. “The hungry lion hunts best,” she said, thanking everyone for coming and concluding, “Go, Stanford."

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